‘We have seen his glory, glory … full of grace and truth.’
With the Golden Calf episode, Israel has done irreparable damage to their relationship with God. Can broken trust ever be repaired? Can it ever be like it was before?
God is calling off the wedding with Israel but Moses, the ‘best friend’ of the groom takes upon Himself to intercede and repair the relations between the two parties. He throws every argument on the table; nothing is too small nor too great to present to the God of Heaven. Again we see mortal man bargaining with the Eternal God like a mere merchant would on the market place.
God desists from going with Israel to the Promised Land. He will send them there thus making good on His promises to the fathers, but He will send an ‘Angel’ in His place. A plague also afflicts those who participated in the idolatrous orgy (Exodus 32:24-25; 33:1-6).
Moses initiates ‘talks’ with the Creator. As He does, all Israel stands at attention and worship; It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Exodus 33:7-10;Hebrews 10:31). The negotiations begin. They will go on for forty days, during which Moses fasts. On what seems to be the fortieth day, Moses opens his mouth using a new strategy. He had formerly appealed to the righteousness of the patriarchs as leverage (Exodus 32:13). He now noticed that since the dire event, God has quit referring to Israel as ‘His people’. Suddenly they became ‘Moses’ people’. This resembles a mother and father arguing about the ownership of their kids according to their attitude. Moses also noticed that God mentioned ‘favor’ towards him. The Hebrew word is ‘chen’, usually translated as ‘grace’. (Exodus 33:12-17).
Moses is mortal man. He is a man of flesh and blood; a sinful man raised in Diaspora Egypt. He himself committed unrecoverable grave mistakes (Deuteronomy 31:2). Yet, Moses was a man who was able to accumulate grace and righteousness credit to be used to ‘cover’ for Israel. This grace seems to have very little to do with personal ‘goodness’, but everything to do with a free gift from God. Even the Master while on earth couldn’t claim goodness, but He had the grace of the Father upon Him (Matthew 19:17). Sin is like debt, and righteousness like credit (Matthew 6:12). From the favor he had with God, Moses had enough available credit to ‘cover’ for Israel’s debt. Thus Moses was called the first ‘redeemer’, showing us what Messiah, the second ‘righteous’ redeemer would do for the world.
Moses could appeal to the virtue of mortals such as the former patriarchs. He could also add his own mortal virtue on the bargaining table. Universal redemption has always been by virtue of a remnant, or a first fruit representing the whole.
As we dedicate our lives to Him, by the Virtue the Master vested in us, may we also live in such manner as to accumulate grace and favor to ‘cover’ those we love and care for.